My highly evolved defence mechanism maybe self-destructive for my relationships but it serves me well, in Kashmir. Start getting a terrible feeling in my stomach at six in the morning. ‘ I shouldn’t go to SMHS, today.’ I fall back to sleep. Wake up…it’s drizzling..type my blog post for the previous day least I forget something.
‘It’s raining and there is a tight curfew in our area,’ Mr T informs me. I head off to Nawhatta in an auto. ‘These auto guys are as crazy as I am!’, I think to myself as I sit in one which is willing to take me till, ‘Jahan tak apko jane denge Madam.’ There are a number of autos that have borne the wrath of the stone pelters as well as the security forces. At the first check point we are sent away. We take another route. We are stopped in front of Dastagir Sahib. A look at the id and once it’s determined, (after some confusion about the name) that I am not Kashmiri, (sir papa ka naam dekho) I am given the go ahead. After the ban on newspapers, my peers are looked at unfavourably.
The whole of downtown is cordoned off.There are barbed wires everywhere and unlike the other parts of town there’s no vehicular movement. We don’t get to reach the territory of Mirwaiz but in an auto we’ve gone far enough.
When I reach the hotel I’m told that there’s stone pelting taking place in Chanpora. I send a message to Mr T to reconfirm. ‘It’s over and please don’t go there. It’s Mr Geelani’s area. An MLA has also been attacked’. I send a message to the former assistant informing him, just incase I need to be bailed out. Off I go in another auto with the condition, ‘Madam auto door rakhenge.’
The lanes are tiny and I am glad I’ve missed the ‘kani jung’. It looks horrific. I take pictures of JK Police, speak to a person from the locality who shows me the broken window panes of a masjid. ‘We don’t know what to do! The boys are destroying their own property. We are asking them not to. They ask us to speak to the security forces but we can’t. We can only try to stop our own…we are stuck in the middle.’
A rickety rickshaw ride back to the hotel and a couple of hours later I get a call from the front desk. ‘Madam, shelling ki awaaz aa rahee he (tear gas shells). Pathraav ho raha he. Dekh le agar jaana he to.’ ‘Shukriyaa Janaab’ , I thank my informant. Batmaloo is the where the trouble has stirred. A boy from that locality has passed away the previous day.
I head off with a new auto driver. Something about the stone pelters has changed. All these years in Kashmir, having covered so many protests, I’ve never faced a scenario where the boys have heckled me. Infact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure my safety. I can’t count the number of times, bystanders as well as protesters have given me shelter in their houses, when the situation became uncontrollable.
‘Madam ko bhejo!‘, they yell from the opposite side. ‘Ghar me Ma nahin he teri,’ yells a JK police sub inspector. ‘ Rakshak ko Bhejo‘, they yell again. ‘JK police hame kuch nahin kareege. Ye hamaare bai he!’. ‘Now we are their brothers,’ he turns around and says to me. The Jammu and Kashmir Police department has recently had to deal with the wrath of the protestors. It’s a terrible position to be in-going against your own.(to be continued)